Friday, 29 May 2015

Spring into Fitness!

Do you have a wellness routine? How do you set fitness goals and stay motivated? These are questions I've been asking myself over the past 5 months or so.  For me, I need an event to work towards. I'm not good at working out for the sake of exercise. I need a specific goal. In the past I've worked towards a couple of 5k runs. What's fun about a 5k run is that there are so many different kinds now to try! I've registered for the Island Girl run on Toronto Islands this fall. And I've always wanted to try a Color Me Rad run so that's also on my exercise bucket list. A few weeks ago, my friend even did a Chocolate Run which is exactly what it sounds like. There were chocolate strawberries to snack on after 1k, and then more chocolate goodies (including a chocolate martini) at the end of the 5k. That's my kind of motivation.

If you've been following me for a little bit, you probably know that I'm currently training for Mudderella. I'm not an exercise buff by any means, but it has felt good to get back into a bit of a workout routine. There are so many Couch to 5k or 10k apps that help you slowly build your strength, and I really like the app Map My Run to track where I've been when I'm running outside, along with the time of my intervals.

Last week I did the biggest run I've ever done before. 7km! I ran in 10 minutes intervals, so I ran 10 mins and then walked 1 min. It was a perfect running morning, and it was so fun to run with some of my Mudderella teammates. Plus for the next few days I felt that amazing sore-workout feeling that reminded me I'm challenging myself and moving forward. 

Trust me, I'm the first to admit it can be daunting to think about working out or going for a run. Especially when Netflix and wine are calling your name. If my friend hadn't asked me to train for Mudderella, I'd probably not have added exercise back into my routine this year. I'm so grateful she did because running again really makes me feel so much healthier and happier.

Bankers Heathcare Group has created this infographic below that I really wanted to share along with my thoughts about fitness to celebrate May as National Physical Fitness and Sport Month. Bankers Healthcare Group provides financing for healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists. They also do some very cool projects such as the Send a Smile Campaign. They created this graphic because they feel it is crucial to stay connected with the health, fitness, and wellness communities since they work so closely with those who also keep us healthy. You can read it out now, or just pin it for later. Whether you're interested in yoga, Zumba, running, strength training, or just eating a bit healthier, I hope you join me by checking it out and picking up some new tips to add to your fitness/wellness routine this summer!


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

My New Favourite Evening Activity - Checking out an Author Reading + A GIVEAWAY!!!

Remember a few weeks ago when I reviewed the book The Green Road? Well, while I was researching Anne Enright's book tour, I noticed she was going to be speaking in Toronto through the Toronto Public Library Author speaker series. So, even though it was one of those weeks where I had way too much going on, I sweet-talked Rob into giving me one more night out to go to this reading at the library with my friend Kelly.

I'd never been to an author reading, which is a bit surprising considering I'm such an avid reader. But what's not surprising is that I totally loved it.

Anne Enright did 3 readings from The Green Road which I really enjoyed. It was so lovely to hear Anne Enright read from her book and see those scenes through her eyes. Then she had an interview with CTV's Marci Ien. Listening to her respond to Marci's questions really gave me so much more insight into this book. I learned more about the characters and have such a deeper appreciation for the book. I actually really feel the need to read it again with these new insights!

After the interview, Anne Enright did a book signing. When I gave her mine she noticed that edition I had was a little bit different than the ones currently being sold. I told her about about being sent the book to review and my little blog here, and she kindly offered a few words of support :)

So, author readings. This is totally my new favourite thing to do. Plus - they're totally free!

Here are all of the author talks and lectures upcoming through the Toronto Public Library. Both Candace Bushnell and Judy Blume are speaking at the end of June. Judy Blume!! OMG how I wish I could go to this one, but unfortuantely I'm not free that evening. Someone please go to this event and tell me how it is, so I can live vicariously through you. Tickets are open for reservation June 1st here


So...I really wasn't planning a book giveaway right now, because I have another one coming up next month, but this week in the mail I received a second copy of The Green Road. I think it was a bit of a mixup that I received 2 copies, so I'm giving one away to one of you! (Just to be clear, the one I'm giving away unfortuantely isn't signed. It arrived after I was at Anne Enright's author reading).

The giveaway is open worldwide.
All entries will be verified.
If I don't hear back from the winner within 48 hours of notification, I'll pick another winner.
Giveaway closes Monday, June 1st.

Good luck!

Monday, 25 May 2015

A Week on Maternity Leave in Toronto

When I was working my way through the Rookie Mom Challenges, #17 was called "Act Like Julie from The Love Boat - Become a Cruise Director" The point of this challenge was to plan out a week of baby activities in your city and invite local mama friends to join you. Here's the plan I made up!

Monday: Mochas and Music
Start the week off with some play and music for baby. Our favourite option in Toronto is Oaks ‘N Acorns. Their current location is over on the Danforth, but they will be opening up a west end location this summer. You can grab a latte or snack while your little one plays in one of the 4 different rooms they have! Drop-in play is $5.00. Check out their classes. There are so many for little ones up to the age of 8. Plus they also have lots of special events. Seb and I are signed up for Superheroes: Capes and Cravings this summer.

*Note - Oaks 'N Acorns in currently closed due to coronoavirus restrictions.

In the afternoon check out a music class designed for babies. Most infant/toddler music programs allow you to come for a free demo class, and you can find many classes around the Greater Toronto Area. Play along with instruments as you learn new songs and build your repertoire. Some music programs in the city to check out are:

*all of the above music classes are available online

Tuesday: The Arts
Find one of those paint-your-own-pottery places and go have baby’s feet painted. At the Clay Room you can select a piece (a trivet is always easiest and inexpensive), and they will help you stamp your baby’s feet onto the pottery. You can also buy a frame for the trivet to complete the look. Your piece will be ready for pick up one week after your visit.

Tuesday afternoons at 1:30pm, Gymboree runs a 0-6 month Play and Learn baby class. This class is also offered on Wednesday-Friday. These classes are 45 minutes long and include songs, tactile and visual stimulation, tummy time, bubbles, puppets, a parachute, and parent discussions. There are also classes for older babies and children up to 5 years. Play and Learn classes are about $90/month which include drop-in gym times. They also offer a free preview class to new families. If you’re planning on getting a membership, keep an eye out. They have introductory specials from time to time so your first month is at a reduced rate.

Wednesday: Exercise then movies
If baby is older than 6 weeks, workout with baby at a Strollerfit class. These classes are offered by a number of different teachers and organizations throughout parks in the city in the summer. The class I used to take is offered by Baby and Me Fitness. The class is an hour long and is followed by a parent discussion. A single class is $20.00.

If you get tired just thinking about a Strollerfit class, maybe check out a mom and baby yoga class instead. Breathe Yoga Studio offers post-natal yoga classes on Wednesdays at 1pm at their Junction location. You can work on your core while bonding with your baby. This class has the added bonus of allowing you to attend when baby is 3 weeks old. Drop in is $22.00.

In the afternoon, take your baby on a date to the movies. Movies for Mommies is a popular mom and baby movie group that has showings at theatres around the city on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at either 1 or 1:30pm. They provide stroller parking, a diaper changing station (with diapers and wipes), and offer free samples of other baby products. The cost ranges from $7.00 - $9.50. No charge for baby :)
*currently closed for covid restrictions

Thursday: Strolling and Supper prep
Take a morning stroll in the city. High Park is always a hit. There are many paved pathways to walk along and enjoy. For older babies, Mike Holmes recently lead the building of a brand new beautiful playground after the original playground was burned to the ground in early 2012. If you go in April, be sure to check out the cherry blossoms. They’re only in bloom for a short period of time each year and are a stunning sight to see.
Or check out the Toronto Botanical Garden. This is another stroller-friendly space to walk with baby. The gardens are open daily dawn to dusk.
Admission is free to both High Park and the Botanical Garden.

In the afternoon, pick up some food for baby at a Farmers’ Market. There are Farmers’ Markets daily at different locations around the city. Two great ones to check out on Thursday afternoons are at Dufferin Grove and East Lynn Park. Both markets are open 3-7pm and if you’re in East Lynn Park, they even have a Kids’ Corner with sing-a-longs and crafts around 5pm.

In the evening, let your partner watch the baby while you prepare some meals in advance at Supperworks. Choose your entrees online and then book a session to go prepare these freezer-friendly meals. They are perfect for nights when getting dinner on the table seems like an impossible feat. There are three Toronto locations to choose from, and this is also a fun outing to do with another rookie mom. Ask about their Stork Special. For the first two months after baby is born, they will prepare your meals for you in advance and all you have to do is come pick them up. Added bonus - if you prepare your meals during an evening session, they’ll offer you a complimentary glass of wine.

Friday: Library and more
In the morning check out a local library. Many libraries offer morning Baby Time Story Time programs for babies birth to 18 months, though advanced registration is required. This program is free and includes songs, stories, and rhymes for baby.

In the afternoon find an Early Years Centre that offers a Baby and Me program. The Toronto Danforth location does for sure. The Baby and Me program at that location is on Fridays at 2pm and is also free, though advanced registrations is required. Each week an early childhood educator runs an interest program for moms and babies up to 12 months. Sample programs include Mom and Baby Yoga, Salsa Babies, Circle and Play time, Early Literacy, and each month there is at least one program with a public health nurse if you have any questions about yourself or baby.

Saturday: Me time
Saturday is all about mommy. Treat yourself to a pedicure or massage while your partner stays home with baby.

After your spa treatment, take your little one and indulge in some shopping. If you have little willpower when it comes to cute baby items, buyer beware. These stores sell adorable clothing, toys, and accessories for babies and toddlers:

Sunday: Pandas and monkeys
Spend the morning walking around the Toronto Zoo. There are stroller-friendly paths throughout the zoo, and baby will enjoy the new sights, sounds, and smells. General admission from May - October is $25.00, and children under the age of 3 are free. Generally, the zoo is open from 9:30 to 4:30 in the winter and 9:30 to 6pm in the summer or over March Break. We're currently obsessed with the red pandas!

In the afternoon, put baby in some Splashers and check out one of the city’s many many splash pads. Splash pads are free, unsupervised water play areas located at various parks and playgrounds. They often include engaging water features such as shower heads and spray jets that will keep baby entertained for hours. 


This post was originally published on Rookie Moms in March 2013.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Local Love: The AGO's Hands-On Children's Centre

I first heard about the Dr. Mariano Elia Hands-On Centre at the AGO from a mommy friend when I was on mat leave, and, since visiting a children's museum was on my list of Rookie Mom Challenges, I thought it would be really fun to visit there with Seb. We had fun, but at 11 months, he was pretty young to really get a lot out of the experience. A few months ago we went back, and he engaged so much more in the art and creative-play activities they have set up.

The main part of the room is the craft station in the centre with these craft wheels full of art supplies.

There are also a few puzzles, a dress up room, lego, blocks of all shapes and sizes, and a little reading nook.

Children 5 and under are free at the AGO, and they all receive a Kid's Activity Bag with art supplies for them to take home. (Although online it now says while supplies last).

The AGO has quite a bit of family programming, but we've only been to the children's centre during drop in hours. There's even an app-based treasure hunt for older kids to explore the whole museum.  Overall, the AGO is a really great plan to keep in mind for a rainy day.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Finding a Small Town Within a Big City

I had always lived in small towns. Really small towns. Big cities felt foreign to me. Most recently, I had lived in Goderich, a small town in Huron County. After university, I was offered a position in Toronto, and I was scared. I wanted to accept the job, but I knew exactly 1 person living in Toronto, and she was moving to Belgium about a week after I would be moving to the city. Then my roommate at the time said to me, “Toronto isn’t really that big, you know. You find your little community, and everything you need is there.” I’ve been here nearly 10 years now, and I can totally see what he meant.

I wouldn’t consider myself a full-fledged city slicker. I still like to nurture the small-town girl inside of me. It’s funny, you spend most of high school finding every excuse to leave your small town, and then only see its virtues once you’ve moved away for good. Now, sometimes, I yearn for Huron County in a way I never thought I would.

Here in Toronto, whether I’m spending time with my three-year-old son, having date night with my husband, or even just getting some “me time,” these are the things I like to do to replenish my rural roots.

Hanging with the kids
1. Riverdale Farm – This is one of my favourite places to go with our two-year-old, and not just because it’s free! He loves to see the animals and run along the paths and in the barns. It’s such a wonderful escape in the city with the kids.

2. Toronto Island – After taking the ferry ride over from the city, it’s amazing to see just how close this calm space is to the city. One popular family activity is to rent bikes and bike around the islands. I recently was with a group of people who rented canoes from the Harbourfront. We canoed over to and around the islands. Stopped for lunch, and canoed back to the city.

3. Visit the beach – You don’t have to leave the city to hit the beach. Toronto has a few great ones. I’ve taken our son early in the morning during the week. It’s not too busy, and he loves playing in the sand. I was totally in awe of just how close a warm, pretty beach was to my home.

Date Night
4. Irish pubs – I don’t know what it is about sitting on a patio with a pint of beer that makes me think of small towns. We like the Black Bull, but that patio is pretty urban-central, so for something quieter, I’d recommend Bedford Academy.

5. City walks – The neat thing about Toronto is that while you’re exploring the city, you end up in these little pockets that, even just for a moment, transport you to somewhere else. You can wander on your own, but I’m a lists and guides type of person, so I like the books Nature Hikes (Near-Toronto Trails and Adventures) and, my new favourite, Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends.

Me Time
6. Farmers’ Markets – Granted, I usually do this one with our little one in tow, but he isn’t particularly interested in the fruits and vegetables I’m picking up. You can find farmers’ markets all over the city, so it doesn’t matter which neighbourhood you live in. We like the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market. There’s also a playground and splash pad at the park and they often have children’s activities during the market on Thursday afternoons.

7. Spending time with my girlfriends – I think one the biggest things that keeps me from feeling swallowed by such a large city is having close friends I see regularly. Unlike the small towns I lived in where, for better or worse, everyone knew each other, I don’t have to know and be friends with all 6 million people in the GTA as I once thought. Instead, these women give me a sense of community and support that sticks… even when the subway is down, it’s pouring rain, and I can’t find a cab to work.

  “Be nice. The world is a small town.” Austin Kleon


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Book Review: The Green Road

As I work my way through my Read Harder Challenge, I’m always keeping my eye out for books that I may not have picked up on my own. The Green Road by Anne Enright is one of these books.

Spanning thirty years and set in Ireland, the United States, and Africa, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen Madigan as she watches her four children grow up to adulthood and the choices, both good and bad, that are made along the way.

There is a long introduction to each of the characters, so you really do understand each of their perspectives well, and Enright’s writing is quite beautiful. This is a book about the circle of life. About how we may not always feel like we’re connected to our siblings, or even our parents, but that families ties don’t easily break.

The last line of this book hit home for me. I don’t want to spoil it, so you’ll have to pick up a copy of your own to see, but it’s a reminder about what is important in life and the fleeting passage of time.

I imagine for mamas reading this book, and especially for mamas whose children are older, many themes in this book will resonate strongly. It made me pause and reflect on what I want my relationship with my own son to look like when I’m older and he’s moved out of our family home. In this month meant to celebrate mothers, reading this book made me want to call my own mom and catch up. To let her know that no matter where I may be in this world, a part of her will always be my “home”. 

Excerpt from an author interview with Anne Enright
Can you describe your novel, The Green Road?
Four children grow up and move away from their childhood home in the west of Ireland. They go everywhere, have full, interesting, and complex lives, and then, in 2005, their elderly mother declares she is going to sell the house. So they all troop back for their Irish family Christmas and try to sleep one last time in their own beds. They must bring their inner child home with them, only to meet their outer mother, Rosaleen: a woman who is sometimes wonderful and always difficult. This book is about compassion, how the heart gets smaller as we age, and how we try to fix that, if we can.

Rosaleen’s restless children live all over the globe but return to Ireland when their family home is about to be sold. How important is home and can you ever escape it?
You can free yourself of many kinds of difficulty, over time, but home is where those difficulties begin and where we can think they can be solved, so the pull toward it is very strong. It is, besides, nice. It is good to feel “at home”.

Anne Enright (also winner of the The Man Booker Prize for The Gathering) is beginning her book tour next week. She has a number of dates in the US from May 10-16 and is also right here in Toronto on Tuesday, May 19th through the Toronto Public Library for a free event where she will be doing readings from The Green Road. Tickets are available here.

Update - I loved seeing Anne Enright speak at the library recently. Check it out here


Disclaimer – I was sent a complementary copy of The Green Road for review. All thoughts and opinions about this book and wonderments about motherhood are my own.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Sebastian: 3 Years: 20 Questions

I found this pin on Pinterest awhile ago, and I thought it would be fun to ask Seb these questions on his birthday over the next few years. If you haven't yet had a conversation with a 3 year old, find a way. It's pretty darn adorable.

1. What is your favorite color? pink, white, orange
2. What is your favorite toy? all my puzzles
3. What is your favorite fruit? pineapple
4. What is your favorite tv show? See the animals here today song video
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Kraft Dinner
6. What is your favorite outfit? my phonics shirt and all of my red shirts
7. What is your favorite game? hide and seek
8. What is your favorite snack? "skoosh" (that's what we call squeezable applesauce)
9. What is your favorite animal? cows
10. What is your favorite song? You already asked me that, Mommy. (see question 4)
11. What is your favorite book? Hide and Seek books
12. Who is your best friend? Mommy
13. What is your favorite cereal? strawberry cereal (Special K Strawberry Cereal)
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? baseball (note: I have never once in my life seen Seb play baseball. I asked him if he plays baseball at school, and he said, "Ummmmm, a little bit.").
15. What is your favorite drink? milk
16. What is your favorite holiday? my birthday
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Froggy
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? a little bit of waffles and picking a chocolate for after lunch
19. What do you want for dinner? chicken nuggets
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? I don't know.